Italy eyes Afghan pullout in summer 2011: Minister

Number of Italian troops is expected to rise from 3,400 to 4,000 by year-end.

Rome: Italy will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in summer 2011, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, as a funeral was held for four Italian soldiers killed in the war-torn nation.

"Italy is... thinking about the withdrawal of its troops at the right moment and in complete coordination with its allies," Frattini said on Monday in an interview published in La Repubblica daily.

Referring to talks at a NATO summit due in November, Frattini said: "The timing is beginning to be defined: summer 2011 for the beginning of a gradual withdrawal to be completed in 2014."

Frattini`s interview was issued on the same day that a funeral was held in Rome for four soldiers killed in an ambush in Afghanistan on Saturday, with top officials including President Giorgio Napolitano in attendance.

Italy has around 3,400 troops in Afghanistan. The number is expected to rise to around 4,000 by the end of the year.

The deaths took to 34 the number of troops from Italy to die in Afghanistan since 2004, when Italian troops were deployed there.


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